Americans have a constitutional right to own guns for self-defense, the Supreme Court ruled today. The 5-4 ruling, the first major opinion on the subject by the high court in nearly 70 years, struck down Washington, D.C.’s 32-year-old ban on hanguns. It is expected to set off years of litigation on what gun control measures nationwide are permissible under the Constitution’s Second Amendment. The amendment says: “A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.”
Justice Antonin Scalia, writing for five justices, said the Constitution does not permit “the absolute prohibition of handguns held and used for self-defense in the home.” The court’s four more-liberal members dissented. Scalia made clear that “longng-standing prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons or the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings” would continue to be upheld.